Ionic Bonds

Atoms and Molecules - Bonding

Ionic bonding is the transfer of electrons from one atom to another, causing one atom to have a positive charge, and the other a  negative charge. This results in a bond due to opposite charges. The purpose of this page is to give a brief history of the discovery of this concept, a variety of definitions, and some supplemental materials for better understanding, and sharing.


Explore the discoverer's biography, including general facts about his life and anecdotes regarding how he made this particular discovery. Also see other significant scientific discoveries built largely on this concept and other real-world applications in history that may not still be relevant.


Joseph John 'J.J.' Thomson (December 18, 1856 - August 30, 1940) was a British physicist and is known for the discovery of the electron. Enrolled in college at age 14, he was very intelligent, focusing on math and physics. In 1897, Thomson published a paper about his discovery of the electron. In his paper, he theorized about the possible uses of them. It is here that he suggested that electrons can be transferred from one atom to another to form a type of magnetic bond.


Concept Definition

Study the primary definition of this concept, broken into general, basic, and advanced English definitions. Also see the mathematical definition and any requisite background information, such as conditions or previous definitions.


When a positive ion and a negative ion are in close proximity with one another, they are strongly held together through magnetic forces. This is called an ionic bond. A good example of this sodium chloride (NaCl), also known as table salt. Sodium is a positive ion (Na+) while chlorine is a negative ion (Cl-).


While it is true that when a positive and negative ion 'meet' they form an ionic bond, usually atoms aren't ions. They become so when they interact with another ion. Ionic bonding is more specifically the uneven sharing of electrons. Revisiting our sodium chloride example, the sodium atom donates its valence electron to the chlorine, causing each atom to have noble gas like stability. The reaction could be viewed as follows:

Na + Cl --> Na+ + Cl- --> NaCl

The first part is where sodium donates the electron, and the second part is where the ions join via ionic bonding to form the third part, the product.


Real World Application

Discover processes or disciplines in the natural or man-made worlds that employ the concept.

Besides from the common household object of table salt (NaCl), many rocks in our Earth are held together via ionic bonding. Out in space, cosmic dust is also due to ionic bonding.



Learn important vocabulary for this concept, including words that might appear in assessments (tests, quizzes, homework, etc.) that indicate the use of this concept.

 Important Vocabulary

Term Context
Anion A negatively charged ion of an element.
Cation A positively charged ion of an element.
Ionic bonding The uneven sharing of electrons that results in a cation and an anion being bonded together.



Browse relevant videos from the Journal of Chemical Education's (JCE) Chemistry Comes Alive! library and other video sources.

Ionic Bond

Instructional Video

Duration: 0 s s; Size: 10 KB

Chemical Bond Song 'Nothin' on You' Remix

Ionic/Covalent Song


Works Cited

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 Works Cited

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